Replying to reporters' questions aboard Air Force One on their way back from Prague, Friday afternoon, April 9, Barak Obama's National Security Adviser James Jones said the administration was discussing how to jump-start the Middle East peace process but "doesn't have a new US plan to offer." These are ongoing discussions, he said, adding "we don't intend to surprise anybody at any time."
But he did not deny the intention to impose a future plan.
The reporters' questions were prompted by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's exclusive disclosures this week on Obama's "borders first" plan for an Israeli-Palestinian accord and by debkafile's earlier report this Friday on the reasons for the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's last-minute decision to cancel his attendance at the US-sponsored summit on nuclear terror, opening in Washington Monday, April 11.
The White House is furious over the withdrawal, coming as it did shortly after the US and Russian presidents signed a 30 percent warhead reduction treaty in Prague.
Intelligence-atomic energy minister Dan Meridor will represent the prime minister.
Relations have gone from bad to worse since the flare-up between US president Barack Obama and the Israeli prime minister at their White House meeting on March 23. They have since dropped another notch over a new falling-out between the two governments, focusing this time on the absence of security borders in the new US Middle East plan, our sources reported.
Washington took his withdrawal from the nuclear summit as a message that Netanyahu would no longer cooperate with the US on security matters so long as the Obama administration pursued a policy Israel regarded as detrimental to its security interests.
debkafile's Jerusalem sources say the prime minister acted out of two motives:
1. Israeli government circles were advised to read two reports leaked to US newspapers ( Washington Post: Obama weighs new peace plan for the Middle East and the New York Times: Should US design Mideast peace plan?) which appeared to herald the White House's intention to impose a peace settlement on Israel.
Our sources in Washington and Jerusalem named National Security Adviser James Jones as the source of the leaks.
One senior source said the leaked reports were serious because "President Obama has his mind set on getting the borders of Israel and the future Palestinian state negotiated and settled in four months. This process leaves no room for any discussion on the security frontiers promised Israel for decades, yet the US president expects the Netanyahu government to accept Washington's borders-cum-Palestinian state package without demur. His planners have shaped a Palestinian state within borders that make no provision for Israeli security. That is something the Netanyahu government will never accept."
2. At the end of their stormy conversation in the White House, Obama handed Netanyahu a list of 11 issues on which he asked Jerusalem to respond. The prime minister continues to withhold his replies having been convinced from close study of the issues/queries that they were clever formulations designed to trick him into endorsing the new American plan for the Middle East.
Without answers to Obama's eleven puzzles, Netanyahu does not feel his trip to Washington is necessary, especially when the only promises he expects to be kept are those of Egyptian, Turkish and other Muslim rulers to slam Israel for its presumed atomic arsenal.
Equally unnecessary is the US Middle East envoy George Mitchell's umpteenth shuttle between Jerusalem and Ramallah. His next trip scheduled for April 11 was also called off.
This episode alone illustrates the depth of discord and mistrust clouding relations between the two governments, originating on Israel's side from disappointment over the Obama administration's failure to make good on his high-sounding pledges of tangible steps to abort Iran's nuclear arms program.
Friday, too, President Obama said he is working with allies to develop new sanctions on Iran, but can't yet say what they are and whether they might be effective in dissuading Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopolous, Obama said: "Do we have a guarantee as to the sanctions we are able to institute at this stage are automatically going to change Iranian behavior? Of course we don't."
This was the first time the US president admitted that his Iran policy was at least just as likely to fail as to succeed.